Adam of the Riches at Soho TheatreCultureTheatre
Because of this, it’s all the more impressive when a comedian nails it, masterfully allowing absurdity to unfold. Among those rare comedians is Adam Riches, a bright-eyed Englishman who specialises in character-based sketches, which are part scripted, part improvised, and rely heavily on audience involvement.
Riches’ latest venture is a one-hour show, Adam of the Riches. The scene is set as soon as your ticket is ripped: cloaked medieval monks usher you to a seat while terrifying witch-burning music blasts through the sound system. Riches (dressed as Sean Bean, dressed as one of his non-descript, wind-weathered war heroes) storms onto stage with the confidence of the entire Gondor army, and begins his assault.
His first victim is a sheepish Australian in the front row who’s made to interact with a swivel chair we are told is a battle horse, then later instructed to “play” Bean’s hair tenderly, like a harp. With this sketch, which is hilarious, Riches establishes his unflinching authority over the crowd – scary enough to prompt the Australian’s burly friend to quietly leg it to the back row. This does not go unnoticed by Riches.
From there, it’s a swift tour through a catalogue of varied, wonderful characters: a sassy cocktail “mixologist”, a jittering desperado who specialises in chasing girls on the rebound, an ex-con redneck tattoo artist who has electric toothbrushes for hands, a shower-loving alpha male named Victor Legit and, perhaps the crowd favourite, the hornbag mother of Ryan Gosling.
Riches has a talent for making his audience feel both relaxed and terrified – an emotional state that seriously heightens the laughs. He knows who to coax and who to avoid, and, like a variety show hypnotist, entices participants into the most ridiculous states. The best participants were Mr Munroe, a 50-something, straight-laced gentleman who at first seemed reluctant to respond to Mrs Gosling’s sexual advances, but then promptly turned coquettish; as well as a baby-faced guy who was so compliant with Victor Legit’s requests that he ate the back hair he’d shaved off Legit’s back, which surprised even Riches.
The show is a balls-to-the-wall, adrenalin-fuelled experiment in mild psychological abuse that will drive your laugh up a few octaves as you mock the victims, while simultaneously praying you’re not next. It’s all in good fun, though. Promise.
Adam of the Riches is on at Soho Theatre until 3rd January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.